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The Chinese 



The Korean War was the first major armed clash between Free 
World and Communist forces, as the so-called Cold War turned hot. The 
half-century that now separates us from that conflict, however, has 
dimmed our collective memory. Many Korean War veterans have consid- 
ered themselves forgotten, their place in history sandwiched between the 
sheer size of World War II and the fierce controversies of the Vietnam 
War. The recently built Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National 
Mall and the upcoming fiftieth anniversary commemorative events 
should now provide well-deserved recognition. I hope that this series of 
brochures on the campaigns of the Korean War will have a similar effect. 

The Korean War still has much to teach us: about military prepared- 
ness, about global strategy, about combined operations in a military 
alliance facing blatant aggression, and about the courage and persever- 
ance of the individual soldier. The modern world still lives with the con- 
sequences of a divided Korea and with a militarily strong, economically 
weak, and unpredictable North Korea. The Korean War was waged on 
land, on sea, and in the air over and near the Korean peninsula. It lasted 
three years, the first of which was a seesaw struggle for control of the 
peninsula, followed by two years of positional warfare as a backdrop to 
extended cease-fire negotiations. The following essay is one of five 
accessible and readable studies designed to enhance understanding of 
the U.S. Army's role and achievements in the Korean conflict. 

During the next several years the Army will be involved in many 
fiftieth anniversary activities, from public ceremonies and staff rides to 
professional development discussions and formal classroom training. 
The commemoration will be supported by the publication of various 
materials to help educate Americans about the war. These works will 
provide great opportunities to learn about this important period in the 
Army's heritage of service to the nation. 

This brochure was prepared in the U.S. Army Center of Military 
History by Richard W. Stewart. I hope this absorbing account, with its 
list of further readings, will stimulate further study and reflection. A 
complete listing of the Center of Military History's available works 
on the Korean War is included in the Center's online catalog: . 

Brigadier General, USA 
Chief of Military History 

The Chinese Intervention 
3 November 1950-24 January 1951 

They came out of the hills near Unsan, North Korea, blowing bugles 
in the dying light of day on 1 November 1950, throwing grenades and 
firing their "burp" guns at the surprised American soldiers of the 8th 
Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Those who survived the initial 
assaults reported how shaken the spectacle of massed Chinese infantry 
had left them. Thousands of Chinese had attacked from the north, north- 
west, and west against scattered U.S. and South Korean (Republic of 
Korea or ROK) units moving deep into North Korea. The Chinese 
seemed to come out of nowhere as they swarmed around the flanks and 
over the defensive positions of the surprised United Nations (UN) 
troops. Within hours the ROK 15th Regiment on the 8th Cavalry's right 
flank collapsed, while the 1st and 2d Battalions of the 8th Cavalry fell 
back in disarray into the city of Unsan. By morning, with their positions 
being overrun and their guns falling silent, the men of the 8th Cavalry 
tried to withdraw, but a Chinese roadblock to their rear forced them to 
abandon their artillery, and the men took to the hills in small groups. 
Only a few scattered survivors made it back to tell their story. The 
remaining battalion of the 8th Cavalry, the 3d, was hit early in the morn- 
ing of 2 November with the same "human wave" assaults of bugle-blow- 
ing Chinese. In the confusion, one company-size Chinese element was 
mistaken for South Koreans and allowed to pass a critical bridge near 
the battalion command post (CP). Once over the bridge, the enemy com- 
mander blew his bugle, and the Chinese, throwing satchel charges and 
grenades, overran the CR 

Elements of the two other regiments of the 1st Cavalry Division, 
the 5th and 7th Cavalries, tried unsuccessfully to reach the isolated 
battalion. The 5th Cavalry, commanded by then Lt. Col. Harold K. 
Johnson, later to be Chief of Staff of the Army, led a two-battalion 
counterattack on the dug-in Chinese positions encircling the 8th 
Cavalry. However, with insufficient artillery support and a determined 
enemy, he and his men were unable to break the Chinese line. With 
daylight fading, the relief effort was broken off and the men of the 8th 
Cavalry were ordered to get out of the trap any way they could. 
Breaking into small elements, the soldiers moved out overland under 
cover of darkness. Most did not make it. In all, over eight hundred men 
of the 8th Cavalry were lost — almost one-third of the regiment's 
strength — in the initial attacks by massive Chinese forces, forces that 
only recently had been considered as existing only in rumor. 

U.S. soldiers with tank make their way through the rubble-strewn 
streets of Hyesanjin in November 1950. (DA photograph) 

Other elements of the Eighth Army were also attacked in the ensu- 
ing days, and it fell back by 6 November to defensive positions along 
the Ch'ongch'on River. However, as quickly as they had appeared, the 
Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) disappeared. No additional attacks 
came. The Chinese units seemed to vanish back into the hills and val- 
leys of the North Korean wastelands as if they had never been. By 6 
November 1950, all was quiet again in Korea. 

Strategic Setting 

The large-scale Chinese attacks came as a shock to the allied 
forces. After the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter and the Inch' on 
landings, the war seemed to have been won. The desperate defensive 
fighting of June was a distant memory, as were the bloody struggles to 
hold the Naktong River line in defense of Pusan in August and early 
September. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, the Far Eastern 
Command Theater Commander, had triumphed against all the odds by 
landing the X Corps, consisting of the 1st Marine Division, the 7th 
Infantry Division, and elements of ROK Marines at the port of Inch' on 


near Seoul on 15 September. Breaking out from the Pusan Perimeter 
four days later, Eighth Army defeated and then pursued the remnants 
of the North Korean People 's Army (NKPA) up the peninsula by many 
of the same roads over which they had retreated a mere two months 
before. On 29 September Seoul was declared liberated. 

As the victorious UN forces pursued the fleeing NKPA, MacArthur 
was authorized by President Harry S. Truman to go north of the pre- 
June boundary, the 38th Parallel, while enjoined to watch for any indica- 
tions that the Soviets or Chinese might enter the war. Korea was seen by 
most at the time as just part of the overall struggle with world commu- 
nism and perhaps as the first skirmish in what was to be World War III. 
MacArthur, convinced that he could reunify all of Korea, moved his 
forces north. Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker's Eighth Army advanced up the 
west coast of Korea to the Yalu River, while Maj. Gen. Edward M. 
"Ned" Almond's independent X Corps conducted amphibious landings 
at Wonsan and Iwon on the east coast. Almond's units moved up the 
coast and to the northeast and center of Korea to the border with China. 
Until the attacks by the CCF at Unsan, the war thus seemed on the verge 
of ending with the UN forces merely having to mop up NKPA remnants. 

In retrospect the events on the battlefield in late October and early 
November 1950 were harbingers of disaster ahead. They had been fore- 
shadowed by ominous "signals" from China, signals relayed to the 
United States through Indian diplomatic channels. The Chinese, it was 
reported, would not tolerate a U.S. presence so close to their borders and 
would send troops to Korea if any UN forces other than ROK elements 
crossed the 38th Parallel. With the United States seeking to isolate 
Communist China diplomatically, there were very few ways to verify 
these warnings. While aware of some of the dangers, U.S. diplomats and 
intelligence personnel, especially General MacArthur, discounted the 
risks. The best time for intervention was past, they said, and even if the 
Chinese decided to intervene, allied air power and firepower would crip- 
ple their ability to move or resupply their forces. The opinion of many 
military observers, some of whom had helped train the Chinese to fight 
against the Japanese in World War II, was that the huge infantry forces 
that could be put in the field would be poorly equipped, poorly led, and 
abysmally supplied. These "experts" failed to give full due to the revolu- 
tionary zeal and military experience of many of the Chinese soldiers that 
had been redeployed to the Korean border area. Many of the soldiers 
were confident veterans of the successful civil war against the Nationalist 
Chinese forces. Although these forces were indeed poorly supplied, they 
were highly motivated, battle hardened, and led by officers who were 
veterans, in some cases, of twenty years of nearly constant war. 


Perhaps the most critical element in weighing the risks of Chinese 
intervention was the deference paid to the opinions of General 
MacArthur. America's "proconsul" in the Far East, MacArthur was the 
American public's "hero" of the gallant attempt to defend Bataan and 
Corregidor in the early days of World War II, the conqueror of the 
Japanese in the Southwestern Pacific, and the foreign "Shogun" of 
Japan during the occupation of that country. He was also the architect 
of the lightning stroke at Inch' on that almost overnight turned the tide 
of battle in Korea. When he stated categorically that the Chinese 
would not intervene in any large numbers, all other evidence of grow- 
ing Chinese involvement tended to be discounted. MacArthur and his 
Far Eastern Command (FEC) intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Charles A. 
Willoughby, continued to insist, despite the CCF attacks at Unsan and 
similar attacks against X Corps in northeastern Korea, that the 
Chinese would not intervene in force. On 6 November the FEC contin- 
ued to list the total of Chinese troops in theater as only 34,500, where- 
as in reality over 300,000 CCF soldiers organized into thirty divisions 
had already moved into Korea. The mysterious disappearance of 
Chinese forces at that time seemed only to confirm the judgment that 
their forces were only token "volunteers." 

The overall situation in early November 1951 was unsettled, but 
UN forces were still optimistic. The North Korean Army had been 
thoroughly defeated, with only remnants fleeing into the mountains to 
conduct guerrilla warfare or retreating north toward sanctuary in 
China. Eighth Army positions along the Ch'ongch'on River, halfway 
between the 38th Parallel and the Yalu, were strong. The 1st Cavalry 
Division had admittedly taken a beating, but two regiments were still 
in good condition, while the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions had gen- 
erally recovered from their earlier trials. On the Eighth Army's right 
flank, the 2d Infantry Division was in a position to backstop the vul- 
nerable ROK 6th and 8th Divisions. In northeastern Korea, the units 
under X Corps were fresh and, in the case of the 1st Marine Division, 
at full strength. By the first week of November, despite the surprise 
attacks by what were still classed as small Chinese volunteer units, the 
United Nations forces as a whole were well positioned and looking 
forward to attacking north to the Yalu to end the war and being "home 
by Christmas." 


The U.S. -led United Nations Command (UNC) had extensive 
forces at its disposal in Korea in November 1950. The major UNC 


ground combat strength consisted of Eighth Army headquarters, a 
ROK army headquarters, 6 corps headquarters (3 U.S., 3 ROK), 18 
infantry division equivalents (10 ROK, 7 U.S. Army, and 1 U.S. 
Marine), 3 allied brigades, and a separate airborne regiment. The total 
combat ground forces were around 425,000 soldiers, including some 
178,000 Americans. In addition, of course, the UNC had major air and 
naval components in support. 

Forces opposing the UN in early November were organized under 
a combined headquarters staffed by North Korean and Chinese offi- 
cers. Kim II Sung, the leader of North Korea, was also commander of 
the North Korean Armed Forces based at Kanggye, deep in the moun- 
tains of north central Korea. On paper, the North Korean forces con- 
sisted of 8 corps, 30 divisions, and several brigades, but in fact only 2 
corps totaling some 5 weak divisions and 2 depleted brigades were in 
active operations against UN forces. The IV Corps with one division 
and two brigades opposed the ROK I Corps in northeastern Korea, 
while the // Corps with 4 scattered and weakened divisions was 
engaged in guerrilla operations in the Taebaek Mountains both above 
and below the 38th Parallel. The remainder of the surviving North 
Korean Army elements were resting and refitting in the sanctuary of 
Manchuria or along the border in north central Korea, away from the 
main lines of UN advance along the east and west coasts of the penin- 
sula. Most of the enemy striking power was contained in the 300,000- 
strong Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). They had entered 
Korea during the last half of October, undetected by FEC intelligence 
assets. The stage was set for the near-destruction of Eighth Army and 
the abandonment of the military attempt to reunify Korea. 

Convincing himself and his Far Eastern Command staff that the 
Chinese would not intervene in force, General MacArthur was deter- 
mined to reunify Korea and change the balance of power in Asia. The 
Joint Chiefs of Staff, impressed by MacArthur's stunning triumph at 
Inch' on and the collapse of the NKPA during the following month, 
were in no position to argue. Despite some misgivings, they allowed 
MacArthur a generous, although not unrestrained, latitude to pursue 
his vision of winning the war before the year was out. Even President 
Truman, not a man to defer easily to anyone, apparently felt that 
MacArthur should be allowed to carry on the war and finish off the 
North Koreans. 

To implement MacArthur's objectives, General Walker drafted 
plans for his Eighth Army to advance quickly against the crumbling 
opposition all the way to the Yalu River on the Chinese frontier. 
Meanwhile, General Almond and his X Corps, separated from Eighth 


Army by the virtually impassable Taebaek Mountains, planned a simi- 
lar series of widely scattered offensive spearheads on the eastern side 
of the peninsula in order to beat Eighth Army to the Yalu. Beginning 
in mid-October, each major force sought to take as much terrain as 
possible. Eighth Army units occupied P'yongyang, the North Korean 
capital, about seventy-five miles north of the 38th Parallel, on 19 
October. Almond's X Corps came ashore at Wonsan on the other side 
of the peninsula on 25 October and moved quickly inland. Only the 
unforeseen incidents at Unsan, about sixty miles north of P'yongyang, 
at the end of October caused both forces to pause and reconsider the 
wisdom of such an all-out offensive. 

With the cessation of Chinese attacks on 6 November, Walker and 
Almond began planning to resume the offensive. Elements of X Corps 
units even reached the Yalu River at Hyesanjin on 21 November and 
Singalp'ajin on the twenty-eighth. Although these were only minor 
"reconnaissance-in-force" elements, both Walker and Almond planned 
to follow through with major offensives of all their forces beginning 
on 24 and 27 November, respectively. 

In the west, Eighth Army began its offensive north from its posi- 
tions along the Ch'ongch'on River, some fifty miles north of 
P'yongyang, on 24 November. Its initial objective was to reestablish 
contact with any remnant North Korean forces or Chinese volunteer 
units. The I Corps (24th Infantry Division, ROK 1st Infantry Division, 
and British 27th Commonwealth Brigade) was on Eighth Army's left, 
IX Corps (25th Infantry Division, 2d Infantry Division, and the 
Turkish Brigade) was in the center, while the ROK II Corps, with its 
6th, 7th, and 8th Infantry Divisions, was on the eastern flank. The 1st 
Cavalry Division and the British 29th Infantry Brigade were in 
reserve, along with the U.S. 187th Regimental Combat Team 

The I Corps attacked west and northwest toward Chongju and 
T'aech'on, while IX Corps headed north toward Unsan, Onjong, and 
Huich'on. The ROK II Corps began moving toward the northeast and 
into the Taebaek Mountains on the Eighth Army's right flank that sep- 
arated Eighth Army from X Corps. All advancing units generally 
received only scattered small-arms fire, and in most instances they 
moved unopposed toward their objectives. A few miles from Unsan, 
elements of the 25th Division discovered thirty U.S. soldiers missing 
since the 8th Cavalry's battle with the Chinese weeks before. They had 
been captured and then released by the Chinese and suffered from 
wounds and frostbite, but they were alive. By 25 November all units 
were reporting that they had reached their objectives, although they 


also reported increasing enemy resistance and even some local coun- 
terattacks. However, optimism still prevailed. Eighth Army thus 
planned to resume its offensive in conjunction with the planned attack 
of X Corps in the east beginning on 27 November. 

The Battles Along the Ch'ongch'on 

On the night of 25 November the Chinese struck Eighth Army 
again. The first CCF attacks hit the 9th and 38th Infantries of the U.S. 
2d Infantry Division about eighteen miles northeast of Kunu-ri along 
the Ch'ongch'on River. Charging to the sounds of bugles, the Chinese 
40th Army found gaps between the units and struck their flanks. They 
hit units on both sides of the river just south of a low mountain called, 
ironically, Chinaman's Hat. Infiltrators also attacked elements of the 
23d Infantry just behind the 9th Infantry. The Chinese took heavy 
casualties and were forced to suspend their attack in the early morning 
hours, only to resume just before dawn. Vigorous U.S. counterattacks 
restored most of the main line positions. Attacks also were pressed 
against the U.S. 25th Infantry Division to the 2d Division's left, 
prompting a now-alerted U.S. command to cancel the advance planned 
for 26 November. Suddenly on the defensive, U.S. soldiers dug in and 
consolidated their positions while waiting for new Chinese attacks. 

Eighth Army's situation was complicated by the fact that the 
Chinese broke through elements of the ROK II Corps on the army's 
right wing. They penetrated the ROK front in several places, establish- 
ing roadblocks to the rear of ROK units, cutting them off and creating 
panic. By noon on the twenty-sixth the ROK II Corps front had folded, 
exposing Eighth Army's entire flank. 

Reacting quickly, Walker sent the 1st Cavalry Division, at that 
time guarding supply installations and routes in Eighth Army's rear, 
and the Turkish Brigade, in IX Corps reserve, forward to protect possi- 
ble Army lines of retreat. Farther west, Walker halted the 24th 
Division and prepared to conduct an active defense all along his lines. 
Although his intelligence officer (G-2) raised the estimate of Chinese 
troops in the area from 54,000 to 101,000, Walker still did not realize 
the size of the Chinese offensive. No one did. FEC headquarters mere- 
ly reported to Washington that "a slowing down of the UN offensive 
may result" from these new attacks. 

Late on the twenty-sixth Chinese forces struck again on the Eighth 
Army's right flank, with the goal of exploiting the collapse of the ROK 
II Corps while attempting to flank the entire Eighth Army from the 
east. Attacking heavily in the east and center sections of the UN line, 
the Chinese threw five field armies into the fight while sending another 


Chinese Communist infantry "volunteers " advance in 
northern Korea in 1950. {China Today [Beijing: 
China Social Studies Publishing Co., 1990]) 

against the 24th Division to the west on a holding mission. Attacks 
against the ROK 1st Division drove that unit back and soon exposed the 
flanks of both the U.S. 24th and 25th Divisions. Only a rapid readjust- 
ment of forces plugged this gap and stabilized the situation by early 
evening on 27 November. However, the situation was growing grim. By 
mid-afternoon on the twenty-eighth all U.S. and ROK units were in 
retreat. Attempts by the 2d Division to hold the line and by the 1st 
Cavalry Division and Turkish Brigade to restore Eighth Army's right 
flank were in vain. Two Chinese Armies, the 42d and 38th, were pour- 
ing through the broken ROK lines to Eighth Army's east and threaten- 
ing to envelop the entire force. Walker's only hope was to bring off a 
fighting withdrawal of his army deep behind the Ch'ongch'on River 
line, below the gathering Chinese thrust from the east. 

The withdrawal of Eighth Army units was made more difficult by 
the thousands of fleeing Korean refugees who blocked the roads. In 
addition, the hordes of refugees gave excellent cover to Chinese and 
North Korean infiltrators, who often dressed in Korean clothing, went 
through U.S. checkpoints, and then turned and opened fire on the star- 
tled Americans. The tactics repeated those used by the North Koreans 
during the initial invasion of the South and were often equally effective. 
One 7th Cavalry company commander was killed and eight of his men 
wounded by enemy infiltrators throwing hand grenades. As in the sum- 
mer, Eighth Army orders directed that refugees be diverted from main 


roads, escorted by South Korean police, and routed around allied 
defensive lines, although the strictures were often difficult to enforce. 

The brunt of the renewed enemy attacks fell on the exposed U.S. 
2d Infantry Division. With his division almost cut off from the rest of 
the Army, Maj. Gen. Laurence B. "Dutch" Keiser relied upon the 
Turkish Brigade to protect his right flank as he prepared to withdraw 
from Kunu-ri. The Chinese, however, bypassed the Turks, who 
remained concentrated at Kaech'on, ten miles to the west of Kunu-ri, 
and established roadblocks on the 2d Division's withdrawal route to 
the south. These roadblocks, combined with attacks against U.S. and 
ROK troops north and northeast of Kunu-ri, proved a lethal combina- 
tion. As the 2d Division began its withdrawal under pressure on the 
morning of the thirtieth, it found itself literally "running the gauntlet" 
as its trucks and vehicles were trapped on a congested valley road 
under fire from Chinese positions on the high ground to the east and 
west. Air strikes helped but could not dislodge the Chinese troops as 
they poured rifle and machine-gun fire into the slow-moving American 
vehicles. Soldiers were often forced to crouch in the ditches as their 
vehicles were raked with enemy fire; while hundreds were killed or 
wounded, others were forced to proceed on foot down the long road to 
Sunch'on, almost twenty miles to the south of Kunu-ri. Chinese road- 
blocks halted the columns repeatedly as the casualties mounted. Some 
artillery units were even forced to abandon their guns. The 37th Field 
Artillery Battalion, for example, lost 35 men killed, wounded, or miss- 
ing and abandoned 10 howitzers, 53 vehicles, and 39 trailers. As the 
road became clogged with abandoned vehicles, men were forced to 
leave the column and make their way south as best they could. Unit 
integrity in some places broke down under the murderous fire. Finally, 
late on 30 November, the last units closed on Sunch'on and the shat- 
tered Eighth Army established a hasty defensive line from Sukch'on to 
the west to Sinch'ang-ni in the east, some twenty-five miles south of 
their initial positions on the Ch'ongch'on River line. 

The battles along the Ch'ongch'on River were a major defeat for 
the Eighth Army and a mortal blow to the hopes of MacArthur and oth- 
ers for the reunification of Korea by force of arms. The 2d Division 
alone took almost 4,500 battle casualties from 15 to 30 November, 
most occurring after the twenty-fifth. It lost almost a third of its 
strength, along with sixty-four artillery pieces, hundreds of trucks, and 
nearly all its engineer equipment. While the rest of Eighth Army had 
not been hit as hard, with the possible exception of the ROK units 
whose total losses will probably never be known, there was no doubt 
about the magnitude of the reverse. The U.S. 1st Cavalry, 24th and 25th 


Infantry Divisions, and the ROK 1st Infantry Division were still rela- 
tively intact, but the U.S. 2d Infantry Division, the Turkish Brigade, and 
the ROK 6th, 7th, and 8th Infantry Divisions were shattered units that 
would need extensive rest and refitting to recover combat effectiveness. 
Although not closely pursued by the Chinese, Walker decided that his 
army was in no shape to hold the Sukch'on-Sinch'ang-ni line and 




ordered a retreat farther south 
before his forces could be 
enveloped by fresh Chinese attacks. 

X Corps 

The Chinese offensive of late 
November destroyed Eighth Army 
plans to push all the way to the 
Yalu. They also stymied the other 
arm of the offensive: the attack of 
X Corps and the ROK I Corps up 
the eastern coast and center of the 
peninsula. General Almond, fol- 
lowing the intent of General 
MacArthur to push vigorously 
against the retreating foe, had 
planned a multipronged operation 
using these two corps. The ROK I 
Corps, consisting of the ROK 3d 
and Capital Divisions, was to pro- 
ceed up the coastal roads over 200 
miles northeast to Ch'ongjin and 
then on to the Yalu, there to guard 
the X Corps right flank. The X 
Corps was to attack north and west 
of the Changjin Reservoir. Its 7th 
Infantry Division was to occupy 
the center of the X Corps front and 
push to the Yalu at Hyesanjin, 
about 160 miles north of Wonsan. 
On the left of the corps, the 1st 
Marine Division was to proceed up 
both sides of the Changjin 
(Chosin) Reservoir, about halfway 
to the border, tie in with the ROK 
II Corps of the Eighth Army to the 
west, and then push sixty more miles north towards the Yalu at 
Huch'angganggu and Singalp'ajin. However, despite the urgings of the 
X Corps commander for more speed, 1st Marine Division Commander 
Maj. Gen. Oliver R Smith was leery about dispersing his division over 
too broad a front. He ordered his units to attack cautiously, maintain- 
ing unit integrity, and within generally supporting distances of each 


other. The terrain in this part of Korea — narrow roads often cut by gul- 
lies and valleys with imposing ridgelines and mountains surrounding 
them — made it critical for units to stay together. 

Rounding out X Corps was the newly arrived 3d Infantry Division, 
which landed at Wonsan between 7 and 15 November and was aug- 
mented by a ROK marine regiment. These units were to guard the 
corps rear, relieve the marines of any port protection duties, and pre- 
pare to conduct offensive operations in support of corps operations as 
needed. The 3d Division faced some challenges with making a fighting 
team out of its subordinate units. The 65th Infantry Regiment, filled out 
with hundreds of mobilized Puerto Rican National Guardsmen, had 
only recently been assigned to the division and had not worked with the 
division staff officers before. In addition, while training in Japan, the 3d 
Division's 7th and 15th Regiments had been assigned thousands of 
minimally trained Korean augmentees, called KATUSAs (Korean 
Augmentees to the U.S. Army). Nonetheless, the division was fresh and 
constituted the major reserve available to X Corps. 

In a seemingly minor change in plans, Almond ordered the 31st 
Regimental Combat Team (RCT) of the 7th Division to relieve the 5th 
Marine Regiment on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir so the 
marines could concentrate their forces on the west, reorienting their 
drive to the north and west of the frozen reservoir. The 31st RCT, like 
most of the rest of the 7th Infantry Division, was widely scattered and 
arrived in its new area in bits and pieces. The roads were treacherous, 
trucks were in short supply, and the different battalions and artillery 
assets only slowly began to assemble east of the reservoir. Although 
the unit was called the 31st RCT, the 31st regimental commander, Col. 
Allan D. "Mac" MacLean, was to command the 1st Battalion of the 
32d Infantry along with his 2d and 3d Battalions of the 31st Infantry. 

The 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, commanded by Lt. Col. Donald C. 
Faith, Jr., was first to reach the new positions, relieving the marines on 
25 November. Faith's battalion was alone on the east side of the reser- 
voir for a full day before other elements of Task Force (TF) 
MacLean — the 3d of the 31st Infantry and two artillery batteries — 
arrived on the twenty- seventh. The 2d Battalion, 31st Infantry, the 
other artillery battery, and the 31st Tank Company were still missing. 
The tanks were on the road just outside the Marine perimeter at 
Hagaru-ri at the southern end of the reservoir, and the 2d of the 31st 
was still en route. Nevertheless, MacLean confidently prepared to 
launch his attack the next day. 

Almond's offensive was not to be. Late on 27 November the 
Chinese struck the U.S. forces on both sides of the Chosin Reservoir 


nearly simultaneously. Two CCF Divisions, the 79th and 89th, 
attacked the marines west of the reservoir in the Yudam-ni area. The 
marines killed the Chinese by the hundreds but were in danger of 
being cut off from the division headquarters at Hagaru-ri, at the south- 
ern end of the reservoir. In a similar maneuver, the CCF 80th Division 
struck the spread-out positions of Task Force MacLean while simulta- 
neously moving around its flank to cut it off from the marines at 
Hagaru-ri. Initially successful, the Chinese were finally stopped just 
before dawn. 

During the day on 28 November, General Almond and his aide, 1st 
Lt. Alexander Haig, helicoptered into the perimeter of TF MacLean. 
Despite all the evidence of massive Chinese intervention, Almond 
exhorted the soldiers to begin the offensive. "We're still attacking," he 
told the soldiers, "and we're going all the way to the Yalu." The corps 


commander then flew back to Hagaru-ri, convinced that TF MacLean 
was strong enough to begin its attack and deal with whatever "rem- 
nants" of CCF forces were in their way. 

That evening the Chinese remnants struck again. The CCF 80th 
Division hit the dispersed U.S. units with waves of infantry. Despite 
the reassuring presence of tracked antiaircraft weapons (40-mm. 
killing machines), the sub-zero cold and the constant Chinese attacks 
began to take their toll. The fighting was often hand to hand. 
Convinced now that launching any kind of attack on the twenty-ninth 
was futile, Colonel MacLean abruptly ordered a pullback to form a 
more consolidated defense. That accomplished, he proposed waiting 
for the arrival of his missing third battalion before resuming any offen- 
sive operations. However, during the withdrawal operations his troops 
came under renewed enemy attack, and in the confusion MacLean was 
captured by the Chinese. With no hope of rescuing his commander, 
Colonel Faith took command of the task force. Colonel MacLean in 
fact died of wounds four days after his capture. 

The epic struggle of Task Force MacLean — now called Task Force 
Faith — was drawing to a close. Its separated tank company, augmented 
by a pickup force of headquarters company soldiers and clerks, 
attempted twice to relieve the beleaguered force. However, the tanks 
foundered on the icy roads, and the attacks were further hindered by 
misdirected air strikes. The tanks withdrew into the safety of Hagaru-ri. 
Faith, unaware of this attempted rescue because of faulty communica- 
tions, was running short of ammunition and had over four hundred 
wounded on his hands. General Smith, commander of the 1st Marine 
Division, was given operational control of the cut-off Army unit, but 
apparently had his hands full withdrawing his marines in an orderly 
fashion into Hagaru-ri. The 7th Division commander, Maj. Gen. David 
G. Barr, flew into the perimeter of TF Faith on the thirtieth, but had 
only bad news for Colonel Faith. The Marines could provide little more 
than air support. Continued Chinese attacks during the night of the thir- 
tieth and into the morning of 1 December left TF Faith in a dangerous 
situation with no help in sight. Chinese assaults had almost destroyed 
the perimeter that night, and the number of wounded went up to nearly 
six hundred, virtually one-fourth of the entire formation. Believing that 
one more Chinese attack would destroy his force, Faith decided to with- 
draw and run the Chinese gauntlet down the frozen road along the east 
side of the reservoir in hopes of reaching the marines at Hagaru-ri. 

On the morning of 1 December the exhausted men of TF Faith 
formed into a column with the wounded piled into about thirty over- 
crowded trucks. Taking a while to get organized, the column began to 


pull out in the early afternoon just as their Marine air cover arrived. 
Tragically, the lead plane dropped its napalm short, and the thick, jel- 
lied gasoline exploded near the head of the column, badly burning 
over a dozen soldiers. Many of the men ran for cover, destroying what 
little order the column had left. Colonel Faith rallied the men and got 
them moving again, but near-panic had set in and the men began to 
gather in leaderless groups. The CCF, noting the withdrawal, began to 
pour in fire from the high ground to the east of the column. As it 
advanced, the column encountered a destroyed bridge on the road. 
Bypassing the bridge was possible, but only one vehicle at a time 
could be winched up the steep slope on the other side. The CCF clus- 
tered along the column, directing fire into the exposed trucks. 

Farther south, the column was stopped by a Chinese roadblock near 
Hill 1221. Some brave soldiers under the command of a few officers 
stormed up the slopes and, despite severe casualties, managed to take 
most of the hill, gaining valuable time for the column. It was getting 
dark, and the lights of Hagaru-ri could be seen in the distance over the 
ice-covered reservoir. However, the Chinese roadblock stood between 
the column and safety. Desperately, Colonel Faith gathered a few men 
and charged the Chinese defenses. Seizing the position, the American 
soldiers managed to disperse the enemy, but Faith was mortally wound- 
ed. Although his men managed to prop him up on the hood of his jeep 
and the convoy began moving again, the retreating force began to give 
up hope. Despite the desperate attempts of the few remaining leaders, 
the convoy began to come apart. Just miles from safety, the column hit 
another blown bridge. The few un wounded men began moving out over 
the ice, thick enough for foot travel but not for vehicles, leaving the 
stranded convoy behind. By dark Task Force Faith thus ceased to exist. 
As the CCF fire intensified with heavy machine guns and grenades, the 
remaining able soldiers abandoned their trucks and fled to Hagaru-ri 
over the ice. Colonel Faith, later awarded the Medal of Honor posthu- 
mously, remained behind with his men to die in the cold. 

All during the night of 1-2 December, shattered remnant of Task 
Force Faith trickled into the Marine positions at Hagaru-ri. A few were 
rescued by Marine jeeps racing out over the ice to pick up dazed, frost- 
bitten survivors. Some 319 Americans were rescued in this manner by 
individual marines. Many of the worst wounded were airlifted to safe- 
ty. Of the 2,500 men of Task Force Faith, 1,000 were killed, wounded, 
captured, or left to die of wounds. After the air evacuation, about 500 
7th Infantry Division soldiers were left to accompany the 1st Marine 
Division as it began its withdrawal from Hagaru-ri to the port of 
Hungnam, fifty miles southeast, and evacuation by sea. 


The men of Task Force Faith did not die in vain. They had virtual- 
ly destroyed an entire Chinese division and prevented any possible 
attack south by the Chinese for four critical days. If they had not been 
able to hold out as long as they had, the 80th Division might have hit 
the 1st Marine Division perimeter at Hagaru-ri in force before the 5th 
and 7th Marines could have withdrawn. Those units might then have 
faced dug-in Chinese roadblocks in their rear instead of a safe perime- 
ter and a reasonably open road to the south. The entire fate of X Corps 
may well have been different, if not for the bravery and stubborn 
defense of the area east of the Chosin Reservoir by the men of Task 
Force Faith. 

Faced with the renewed Chinese attacks on X Corps and Eighth 
Army, General MacArthur finally admitted that the Chinese interven- 
tion had changed everything, announcing, "We face an entirely new 
war." Summoning both Walker and Almond to Japan even as their 
units were fighting off the massive Chinese attacks, MacArthur grap- 
pled with ideas to save his units. He considered establishing a defen- 
sive line, or perhaps two enclaves along the coast, to prevent the 
destruction of Eighth Army and X Corps and the loss of all that had 
been gained since September. Another plan had the 3d Infantry 
Division attacking directly east from Wonsan into the Chinese flank, 
but the units involved considered it far too risky and besides, the ter- 
rain made it nearly impossible. MacArthur next asked Washington for 
augmentation by troops of Chiang Kai-shek, the defeated ruler of 
China now in exile with some of his army on the island of Taiwan. 
Viewing this scheme as a dangerous escalation of the war, Washington 
would have nothing to do with it. Sensing disaster, MacArthur began 
imagining the total destruction of his forces in Korea or an evacuation 
of the mainland. 

Retreat from North Korea 

After the defeat at the Ch'ongch'on River, General Walker real- 
ized that it was necessary to withdraw his Eighth Army from its posi- 
tions before the Chinese could move around its still-open right flank. 
He ordered an immediate retreat to create an enclave around 
P'yongyang. However, even as troops occupied their new positions, he 
realized that he lacked the forces to maintain a cohesive defensive line. 
Three of his ROK divisions (6th, 7th, and 8th Infantry Divisions) had 
disintegrated; the U.S. 2d Infantry Division was in shambles; and all 
the other units had taken heavy loses in men, materiel, and morale. 
Faced with these problems, Walker decided to abandon P'yongyang. 
He needed time to regroup and refit his units. He ordered the with- 


U.S. combat engineers place satchel charges on a railroad bridge 
near P 'yongyang, preparing to destroy it to slow the Communist 
advance. (DA photograph) 

drawal of the army to a line along the Imjin River, about ninety-five 
miles to the south near the prewar border. He further ordered that all 
supplies that could not be moved or any installations that could be of 
use to the enemy be destroyed. 

Moving slowly down the few good roads in Korea, Eighth Army 
units began pulling back from their positions near P'yongyang on 2 
December and retreated over the course of three weeks to a line along 
the Imjin River, from Munsan-ni on the western coast to just south of 
the Hwach'on Reservoir across the peninsula. Caught wrong-footed by 


U.S. soldiers retreat from Pyongyang in December 1950, carrying 
their equipment on traditional Korean "A " frames. (DA photograph) 

this quick withdrawal, and needing time of their own to refit and 
resupply their troops, the Chinese did not immediately pursue. By 23 
December the U.S. I and IX Corps and the ROK III and II Corps, west 
to east, were in place along the line. The ROK I Corps began to arrive 
after its evacuation from northeast Korea, to be placed on the far right 
of the line, anchoring the line to the eastern coast. It was not a strong 
defensive position, but it had the advantage of leaving no flanks in the 
air. It also maintained UN control of Seoul. 

In northeast Korea, with the consolidation of the 1st Marine 
Division at Hagaru-ri along with the remnants of TF Faith, the situa- 
tion in the X Corps area was improved, but hardly reassuring. There 
was only one narrow road leading from Hagaru-ri to the port of 
Hungnam, over fifty tough miles to the southeast. At Hungnam, 
Almond planned to establish a perimeter and begin the slow process of 
withdrawal. Early in the process he had ruled out a "Dunkirk" situa- 
tion, where the men would be extracted while leaving their equipment 
and supplies behind. Such a blow to allied pride and troop morale was 


too grievous to contemplate. The challenge was first to safely with- 
draw the Marine and Army units from the Chosin Reservoir area down 
to Hungnam, then to establish a strong defensive perimeter, and finally 
to begin shrinking that perimeter under enemy pressure while loading 
up all the supplies and equipment possible. It would be a race between 
the Chinese forces and U.S. tactical and logistical skills. 

The first challenge — withdrawing the Marine and Army units from 
Hagaru-ri to Hungnam intact — was potentially the most dangerous. If 


the Chinese in the area could cut the road between Hagaru-ri and 
Hungnam with a strong enough force, the entire 1st Marine Division 
could be lost. Such a disaster would seriously undercut the entire UN 
position in Korea. The effect on the American public would be 
tremendous. Their failure to rescue TF MacLean/Faith, fresh in their 
minds, the Marine and X Corps staffs began working together to coor- 
dinate their movements and fires to prevent any chance of a reoccur- 
rence of such a tragedy. Their planning, coupled with massive 
American firepower and airpower and the sheer persistence and 
courage of the marines and soldiers at hand, would turn the tide and 
snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. 

The 1st Marine Division plan was relatively clear and straightfor- 
ward, although still difficult to execute. The division with its attached 
Army units would move all its men and equipment down the road to 
Hungnam, while combat units would systematically take and clear the 
ridgelines dominating the road. There was to be no repetition of the 
Kunu-ri gauntlet of the 2d Infantry Division. Combat power would 
clear the ridges, while air support and artillery would destroy any 
roadblocks or major concentrations of Chinese forces. Meanwhile, X 
Corps would send a special task force from the relatively fresh 3d 
Infantry Division — code-named Task Force Dog — about thirty miles 
north up the road from Hungnam through Hamhung to just south of 
the Funchilin Pass near Kot'o-ri. Task Force Dog, with its powerful 
attached artillery units, would keep the road south of the pass open all 
the way to the port. 

Leading the way south some eight miles to Kot'o-ri on 6 
December were the 7th Marines and the ad hoc Army battalion formed 
from the remnants of Task Force Faith/MacLean. With artillery sup- 
port carefully planned and around-the-clock air cover, the force quick- 
ly met and overcame enemy resistance at various strong points. The 
rest followed, and a Marine rear guard was out of Hagaru-ri by mid- 
morning of the following day. During the fight south to Kot'o-ri, some 
103 marines lost their lives, with almost 500 wounded. 

Once at Kot'o-ri, the Marine and Army force faced a major obsta- 
cle: a sixteen-foot gap in the road near the Funchilin Pass. A steep 
chasm prevented any hope of bypassing the gap. The staff of X Corps 
coordinated an airdrop on 7 December of eight 2 1/4- ton tread way 
bridge sections to cross the gap. In a series of air operations, all eight 
sections were dropped by parachute near the pass, with one falling 
inside Chinese lines and another damaged in the drop. However, the 
remaining sections bridged the gap and, despite some tense moments 
when trucks almost slid off the narrow bridge, the way was clear. 


A U.S. infantryman with a 75 -mm. recoilless rifle (rocket launcher) 
guards a pass south of the Chosin Reservoir. (DA photograph) 

Followed by hundreds of fleeing Korean refugees, the Marine and 
Army forces made their way south against continuing Chinese flank 
attacks. Finally, early in the morning of 10 December, the first linkup 
occurred between the lead elements of the northern force and Task 
Force Dog. Over the next two days the rest of the Marine and Army 
elements withdrew through the covering elements of TF Dog to safety 
in Hungnam. Again, the withdrawal came at a price. The Chinese 
managed to cut the road near Sudong, about ten miles south of Kot'o- 
ri, late on 10 December, but a composite Marine force led by two 
Army officers beat back the enemy. In the process one of the leaders of 
the force, Army Lt. Col. John U. D. Page, was killed in action and later 
received the Medal of Honor posthumously. Despite the attacks of two 
Chinese armies, the withdrawal from the Chosin area of over eleven 
thousand Marines and one thousand soldiers was successful. 

On 8 December MacArthur ordered X Corps to evacuate through 
the port of Hungnam and redeploy to South Korea as part of Eighth 
Army. Given the size of the force and the near presence of the 
Chinese, the withdrawal had to be a carefully orchestrated event. 
Setting up a special Evacuation Control Group, Almond directed the 


The USS Begor lies off the port of Hungnam as demolition charges destroy 
the dock facilities on 24 December 1950. (U.S. Navy photograph) 

battle- weary 1st Marine Division to be evacuated first, from 9-15 
December. It was followed by the ROK I Corps from 15-17 
December, the 7th Infantry Division from 18-21 December, and the 
3d Infantry Division from 21-24 December. All this occurred while 
coordinating shipping with the Navy's Task Force 90, uploading thou- 
sands of tons of supplies, and maintaining a secure perimeter. 

The withdrawal from Hungnam was accomplished successfully, 
despite all the potential dangers. The X Corps arranged for the with- 
drawal of over 105,000 troops; 18,422 vehicles; 350,000 tons of bulk 
cargo; and as a bonus some 98,100 refugees. Naval gunfire support 
assisted in pulling off the maneuver with minimal enemy interference. 
The Navy and Army worked together as well to coordinate a massive 
demolitions plan to destroy any cargo too bulky or dangerous (like 
frozen dynamite) to move, along with the docks and port facilities. 
The X Corps outloaded all its elements on a strict timetable and 
moved them by sea to Ulsan, just north of Pusan in South Korea, for 
refitting and redeployment to the front to help Eighth Army hold the 
line. The last soldiers from the 3d Infantry Division embarked on their 
landing craft to the waiting ships on Christmas Eve 1950. As they left, 


the docks erupted behind them in a series of huge explosions. The 
attempt to reunify Korea by force was over. 

Ridgway Takes Command 

General Walker was an indirect casualty of the Chinese attacks. 
On the morning of 23 December, with the redeployment of Eighth 
Army to new lines in the south complete and the first elements of the 
evacuated X Corps on the way, the Eighth Army commander left 
Seoul by jeep on an inspection trip. Ten miles north of the capital, his 
vehicle zoomed north past several U.S. trucks halted on the opposite 
side of the road. Suddenly, a Korean truck driver pulled out of his 
lane, heading south, and tried to bypass the trucks. In doing so, he 
pulled into the northbound lane and collided with Walker's jeep. The 
commander was knocked unconscious and later pronounced dead 
from multiple head injuries. 

The man selected to replace General Walker as Eighth Army com- 
mander was Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway. At the time Ridgway was 
serving on the Army staff in the Pentagon as deputy chief of staff for 
operations and administration. A famed airborne commander from 
World War II, Ridgway was knowledgeable about conditions in Korea 
and the Far East and had a strong and dynamic personality. He would 
need both for the task ahead. His success in turning Eighth Army's 
morale around, using little more than a magnetic personality and bold 
leadership, is still a model for the Army, showing how the power of 
leadership can dramatically change a situation. 

Ridgway landed in Tokyo on Christmas Day 1950 to discuss the 
situation with MacArthur. The latter assured the new commander of his 
full support to direct Eighth Army operations as he saw fit. Ridgway 
was encouraged to retire to successive defensive positions, as currently 
under way, and hold Seoul as long as he could, but not if it meant that 
Eighth Army would be isolated in an enclave around the city. In a fore- 
shadowing of his aggressive nature, Ridgway asked specifically that if 
he found the combat situation "to my liking" whether MacArthur 
would have any objection to "my attacking"? MacArthur answered, 
"Eighth Army is yours, Matt. Do what you think best." 

General Ridgway knew that one of his first jobs was to restore 
the Eighth Army soldiers' confidence in themselves. To accomplish 
this he had to be aggressive, despite the hard knocks of November 
and December, and find other leaders in Eighth Army who were not 
defeatist or defensive oriented. In practice he proved quick to reward 
commanders who shared his sentiments and just as quick to relieve 
those officers at any level who did not. During one of his first brief- 


ings in Korea at I Corps, Ridgway sat through an extensive discus- 
sion of various defensive plans and contingencies. At the end he 
asked the startled staff where their attack plans were. The corps G-3 
(operations officer) responded that he had no such plans. Within 
days I Corps had a new operations officer. The message went out: 
Ridgway was interested in taking the offensive. To aid in this percep- 
tion he also established a plan to rotate out those division comman- 
ders who had been in action for six difficult months and replace 
them with fresh leaders who would be more interested in attack and 
less in retreat. In addition, he sent out guidance to commanders at all 
levels to spend more time at the front lines and less in their com- 
mand posts in the rear. The men had to see their commanders if they 
were to have confidence that they had not been forgotten. All these 
positive leadership steps would have a dramatic effect almost from 
the first. Eighth Army was in Korea to stay. 

Ridgway, despite his aggressive intent, was also enough of a real- 
ist to know that the Chinese were still capable of launching major 
attacks. He also knew that his Eighth Army still needed time to refit 
and reorganize. Thus, he immediately began planning to strengthen the 
defensive lines around Seoul while bringing up X Corps as quickly as 
possible to strengthen the Wonju sector in the center of the line. 
Almond's X Corps was no longer independent, but would be just 
another corps of the Eighth Army, tied into a new defensive line that 
stretched unbroken from one side of the peninsula to the other. 

Before Ridgway's changes could be instituted, however, the 
Chinese attacked again. Beginning on 26 December, the CCF struck 
hard at UN units on the western approaches to Seoul. Supporting 
attacks occurred as well in the central and eastern parts of the line. 
The Chinese hit the ROK units hard, and again several units broke. 
Two out of three regiments of the ROK 2d Division fled the battlefield, 
leaving their valiant 17th Regiment to fight alone and hold its position 
for hours despite heavy losses. Ridgway reluctantly ordered a general, 
but orderly, withdrawal, with units instructed to maintain contact with 
the enemy during their retreat, rather than simply giving up real estate 
without inflicting losses on the enemy. 

Initially, Eighth Army pulled back thirty miles to a defensive line 
along the Han River to protect Seoul. By 2 January both I and IX 
Corps had successfully concluded the new withdrawal and, with exten- 
sive firepower at their command, their chances of holding the city were 
good. However, there was a distinct danger that the two corps could be 
outflanked to the east and forced to defend Seoul with their backs to 
the sea. Ridgway, unwilling to risk the loss or isolation of so much of 


his combat power, reluctantly ordered the retreat of both corps to 
"Line C," just south of the Han. For the third time in the war so far, 
Seoul was to change hands. 

Followed by hordes of refugees hauling their loved ones or a few 
personal treasures on their backs or on oxcarts, I and IX Corps began 
withdrawing from Seoul on 3 January. The loss of the capital was 
again a bitter pill for everyone to swallow. The cold froze refugee and 
soldier alike as the long UN columns snaked southward again. As the 
Han River began to freeze solid, refugees braved the treacherous ice to 
reach the temporary safety of UN lines. However, the freezing of the 
river threatened the entire UN position, since the same ice that held 
refugees could hold Chinese infantry intent on heading off the 
American withdrawal. Before such attacks could occur, however, the 
movement south was completed. 

On the whole, the allies accomplished the evacuation of Seoul 
with minimal casualties. However, one of the units, the attached 27th 
Commonwealth Brigade, had been forced into hand-to-hand combat to 
rescue one of its cut-off battalions and had suffered heavy casualties. 
Finally, on the morning of 4 January, despite the continuing stream of 
desperate refugees, Eighth Army engineers blew the three ponton 
bridges and the main railway bridge over the Han to prevent their use 
by the pursuing Chinese. The withdrawal to Line C was complete. 
However, even as units were moving into position on this defensive 
line, plans were being executed to withdraw some thirty-five miles far- 
ther south to Line D, running from P'yongt'aek in the west, northwest- 
ward through Wonju to Wonpo-ri. 

The freezing of the Han River limited the defensive capabilities of 
UN troops scattered along Line C. In addition, the ROK III Corps in 
central Korea had virtually collapsed. Only the ROK 7th Division was 
in a position to help stabilize the line. The ROK 2d Division was down 
to less than a regiment. The ROK 5th and 8th Divisions were in com- 
plete retreat toward Wonju. To the east the ROK II Corps' 3d Division 
was also withdrawing to the south. As a result Ridgway ordered the 
U.S. X Corps, still recovering from its near-disaster in northeast 
Korea, to move up and take responsibility for some thirty-five miles in 
the center of Line C. Almond was to have control of the U.S. 2d and 
7th Infantry Divisions and whatever remnants that he could gather of 
the ROK 2d, 5th, and 8th Divisions. To the right of X Corps, the ROK 
III and I Corps would extend Line C to the eastern coast. However, the 
staying power of this new defensive line was problematic. 

Ridgway assessed the situation and, after the withdrawal from 
Seoul was completed, ordered the entire Eighth Army to withdraw 


again to Line D, which was somewhat redrawn to run straight east 
from Wonju to Samch'ok instead of northeastward to Wonpo-ri. 
Beginning on 5 January all five corps of Eighth Army pulled back to 
this line. Despite its losses, the Eighth Army situation was thus much 
improved from the last days of November, with better coordination 
between units and fewer open flanks. 




The enemy attacks, however, 
were not over. The rejuvenated 
NKPA opened a two-corps assault 
on X Corps positions near Wonju in 
the center of Line D on 7 January. 
The NKPA V Corps hit the 2d 
Division at Wonju with two divi- 
sions in a frontal attack, while a 
third division attacked from the 
northwest against the adjacent ROK 
8th Division. They were assisted by 
one of the divisions of the NKPA II 
Corps, which also launched attacks 
against the neighboring ROK III 
Corps to the east. The North 
Koreans managed to force the 2d 
Division out of Wonju by the 
evening of 7 January, and all coun- 
terattacks failed to retake the city. 

The North Korean success at 
Wonju and the dangerous penetra- 
tion of the ROK III Corps by the 
NKPA II Corps threatened to 
unhinge the entire UN line. 
However, the harsh winter weather 
and logistical challenges, coupled 
with newly aggressive patrolling by 
UN soldiers, began to take their toll 
on the attackers' momentum. The 
defensive line was reestablished 
just south of Wonju, cutting off the 
weakened NKPA divisions that had 
penetrated the line. The 1st Marine 
Division was sent up from reserve 
to conduct a systematic antiguerril- 
la campaign against the scattered 
forces and in three weeks managed to destroy virtually one entire NKPA 
division. By the end of January a new defensive line had been estab- 
lished from the Han River, running just south of Wonju to Samch'ok on 
the eastern coast. 

While X Corps was dealing with the potentially disastrous penetra- 
tion in the center, I and IX Corps were busy stabilizing their positions 


26 December 1950-1 J anuary 1951 

Eighth Army Frontline, 26 Dec 
Planned Delaying Lines 
North Korean Attacks, 26-30 Dec 
U.S. and ROK Attacks, 30-31 Dec 
Chinese Attacks, 31 Dec-lJ an 

High Ground Above 1000 Feet 









U.S. military leaders in Korea visit the front lines north ofSuwon on 
28 January 1951. General MacArthur is at the right front. General 
Ridgway is in the center, third from the left. (DA photograph) 

and instituting a series of aggressive reconnaissance-in-force patrols to 
their front. General Ridgway, dismayed by the continuing poor showing 
of his battle- weary units, demanded that unit commanders lead the way 
in restoring an aggressive spirit. To help rebuild the still shaky morale of 
Eighth Army, he ordered I Corps to plan a major reconnaissance-in- 
force in its sector to test the measure of Chinese resistance. Operation 
Wolfhound used troops from the U.S. 25th Infantry Division (especial- 
ly the 27th Infantry Regiment, the "Wolfhounds," from which the opera- 
tion drew its name), the U.S. 3d Infantry Division, and the ROK 1st 
Division. Maj. Gen. Frank W. "Shrimp" Milburn, commander of I 
Corps, directed it along the Osan-Suwon axis, twelve to twenty miles to 
the north, supported by artillery and tanks. 

The reconnaissance began on 15 January. The 3d Infantry 
Division units involved were quickly immobilized by enemy defensive 
positions, but the rest of the forces met little opposition until near 
Suwon. There, Chinese troops forced the Wolfhound units to turn 
back just south of their objective, but they were able to establish an 
advance corps outpost line along the Chinwi River, south of Osan, by 


late on 16 January, while inflicting some 1,380 enemy casualties at the 
cost of 3 killed and 7 wounded of their own. More important, they had 
showed both the Chinese and themselves that the Eighth Army contin- 
ued to have an offensive spirit. 

Almost immediately, two other reconnaissances-in-force sallied 
out from UN lines: another from I Corps and a one-day action in the 
IX Corps sector, both on 22 January. The reconnaissance in the IX 
Corps sector consisted of a tank-heavy formation called Task Force 
Johnson after its commander, Colonel Johnson. The immediate results 
of both operations were small, but the ground was being laid for a 
return to the offensive by the entire Eighth Army in the near future. 


The period from early November 1950 to late January 1951 was in 
many ways the most heartbreaking of the Korean War. During the pre- 
vious summer the North Korean attack had been a total surprise, and 
the disastrous retreat to the Pusan Perimeter was painful in the 
extreme. However, the series of defeats could be explained by the nec- 
essarily haphazard and slow reinforcement of the outnumbered U.S. 
and South Korean forces. Moreover, these defeats were followed by 
elation as the Inch' on landings reversed the situation and the UN 
forces seemed on the verge not just of victory in South Korea but of 
total victory, including the liberation of North Korea and the reunifica- 
tion of the peninsula. All these dreams were swept away by the mas- 
sive intervention of the Chinese Army in late November 1950. There 
would be no homecoming victory parade by Christmas. 

The initial warning attacks and diplomatic hints by the Chinese 
were ignored by the overconfident Far Eastern Command under 
General MacArthur. MacArthur's failure to comprehend the reality of 
the situation led the entire United Nations army to near disaster at the 
Ch'ongch'on River and the Chosin Reservoir. Only the grit and deter- 
mination of the individual American soldiers and marines as they 
fought the three major enemies of cold, fear, and isolation held the UN 
line together during the retreats from North Korea. Once tied together 
into a coherent defensive line, under new and dynamic leadership, 
these same soldiers and marines showed their determination to contin- 
ue the fight. Hard battles lay ahead, but the period of headlong retreats 
from an attacking, unsuspected foe, was finally over. 


Further Readings 

Appleman, Roy E. East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in 

Korea, 1950. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987. 
. Escaping the Trap: The U.S. Army X Corps in Northeast 

Korea, 1950. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990. 
. South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu (June-November 

1950). U.S. Army in Korea. Washington, U.S. Army Center of 

Military History, 1961. 
Blair, Clay. The Forgotten War: America in Korea 1950-53. New York: 

Doubleday, 1987. 

Marshall, S. L. A. The River and the Gauntlet: November 1950, the 
Defeat of Eighth Army. Nashville, Tenn.: Battery Press, 1987. 

Mossman, Billy C. Ebb and Flow: November 1950-July 1951. U.S. 
Army in Korea. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military 
History, 1990. 

Stanton, Shelby. America's Tenth Legion: X Corps in Korea, 1950. 
Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1989. 


CMHPub 19-8 

Cover: U.S. 7th Infantry Division soldiers pass through the outskirts of 
Hyesanjin in November 1950. (DA photograph) 

PIN : 077985-000